What to do and what to avoid when it comes to connecting with your audience during the current public health crisis.
Have you been flooded with emails from what feels like every place you’ve ever bought a cookie?
To be sure, some of the correspondence is welcome and quite helpful. It’s your favorite Italian restaurant letting you know they remain open for takeout and delivery or the travel company sending you information on how to easily cancel your upcoming trip to Spain.
The somewhat less helpful is what Fast Company called the “Brand Friend”—“This is where brands who have built a direct line of communication with customers feel obligated to at least acknowledge the situation, even if it’s just to say hi with a ‘We’re all in this together’ drum-circle vibe.”
The third category are the ones marketing experts say can easily alienate recipients: emails that don’t impart anything of value, are basically a rehash of what folks already know about the pandemic, and feel almost like a cheap attempt at driving engagement.
“Be helpful, relevant, informative, constructively distracting, or authentically compassionate,” Ryan Ku, head of strategy and brand innovation at Eleven, said in Fast Company.
Another thing to keep in mind at this time? Cancel any campaigns that simply don’t make sense given current government recommendations about social distancing and travel. An example of why this matters: Spirit Airlines sent out the prescheduled email “Never A Better Time To Fly” right as COVID-19 was upgraded to a pandemic.
So, what should you be doing? Offer resources for your community, like free livestream yoga or meditation classes, or organize food dropoffs to the people who cannot leave their homes.
Above all, be generous. “That’s what people will remember when this is over,” Reuben Turner, co-founder of the Good Agency, told The Drum.
According to a new report from Classy, it’s important to focus on what a potential corporate sponsor can get out of a partnership just as much as how it can benefit your organization.
Whether it’s an event, an initiative, or a donor roll, corporate sponsors are often a key part of what allows associations and other nonprofits to fulfill their respective missions.
So how cab you convince them to work with you? According to Classy, a fundraising software firm for nonprofits, it comes down to mutual back-scratching.
“Corporate sponsorships typically provide nonprofit organizations with financial support in exchange for the corporation’s brand exposure,” the company stated in its The Nonprofit’s Guide to Pitching to Corporate Sponsors [registration], available in PDF and podcast. “Beyond this basic exchange, there are several additional benefits for each party in the relationship.”
Often, Classy says, the collaboration helps nonprofits increase marketing efforts, draws in new supporters, and boosts brand associations. For corporations, it helps increase brand perception and exposure, creates opportunities to take business back from competing brands, encourages consumers to pay more, and even boosts employee satisfaction.
There are lots of ways this can work, from in-kind donations to cause marketing approaches. But there is always room for pitfalls—Classy cites how the well-known breast cancer nonprofit Susan G. Komen partnered with the fast-food chain KFC, which ended up angering supporters of Komen. “An ill-fitted match could damage the public perception of your brand and have long-term negative repercussions.”
Perhaps that’s why nonprofits tend to take it slow when picking a brand for a partnership. Classy cites data that nonprofits can take between six and nine months to find the right partner and to negotiate a deal for $100,000. The process is often slow because of the amount of outreach required. The report finds it’s often a five-step process:
Initial contact (over email or call)
Pitch deck/value proposition
An in-person or virtual meeting
A specific proposal
Many nonprofits are doing this kind of pitching for sponsorships at the same time, with a focus on the potential sponsor’s goals.
“The key to navigating interactions with your contacts at a company is to remember that you’re presenting them with a business opportunity,” the report states. “To sustain their attention, you need to create communications materials designed with their goals in mind.”
The report offers tips on things to keep in mind when building the pitch deck and presenting to the client.
The key, says the report, is nurturing: “Nurture your relationships with organizations aligned with your goals and values, and you will identify partners that have the potential to grow beyond one campaign or event.”
With many employees working from home—thrust into close quarters with relatives and distanced from coworkers and friends—an expert says it is important to practice self-care.
After federal health officials recommended people socially distance themselves to reduce the spread of the COVID19 coronavirus, many schools closed and numerous associations asked their employees to work from home. This sudden change of workspace, coupled with additional childcare responsibilities in some cases, can create stress for employees, said Nabil El-Ghoroury, Ph.D., CAE, executive director of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT).
“It effects your work tremendously if you aren’t coming into the office,” El-Ghoroury said. “The ability to be productive is changed, particularly for working parents. Also, social contacts—we are social people. Being isolated is pretty challenging, particularly for extroverts.”
He added, “This is definitely going to test people’s relationships, even your relationship with your kids. This poses some unique challenges.”
To help association professionals deal with those challenges, El-Ghoroury offered eight tips.
Practice self-compassion. Realize that in this time when meetings are being canceled, travel is stopped, and supplies are limited, things are not going to all go as planned. “You have to forgive yourself,” El-Ghoroury said. “Let’s just get through this for the time being.”
Reassess expectations. “This also relates to self-compassion,” El-Ghoroury said. “It’s going to be hard to hit targets on the strategic plan or for revenue.” He advised reassessing what you can do within the lens of the current environment.
Assemble your team. El-Ghoroury said to make sure you have the right people on the team to help you do your job in this quickly changing environment.
Make a plan. Determine what will work best for your office environment, which may or may not be everyone working from home. CAMFT chose optional work from home, so people can go in if they prefer. El-Ghoroury said an association colleague told him they are rotating different teams into the office, so sometimes a team works from home and other times that team works at the office in a socially distant manner.
Stay connected. It’s important to connect with people in your office, as well as colleagues. “We have to be intentional about staying in communication,” El-Ghoroury said. “You can’t just walk with your coffee cup three doors down and see people. We have to plan FaceTime or Zoom. Also, reach out to your association colleagues. You can get great ideas from other folks.”
Limit your news consumption. While certain details are important to know for public safety, El-Ghoroury said, beyond that, it can raise anxiety. “Turning it off can really help with your stress,” he said.
Take a break. When people work from home, work can easily bleed into home-life, but El-Ghoroury contends separation is important. “Take breaks and consciously stop working at a certain time,” he said. “We can’t sprint a marathon. You have to pace yourself.”
Practice healthy habits. El-Ghoroury said it’s important to move healthily through your day at home, including eating right, taking walks, and exercising.
El-Ghoroury said right now people are still in the early stages of this crisis mode and things will become “more stable” as we get further along. He added one bonus tip: “Laugh,” he said. “Laughing really relieves stress, and there is only so much you can do.”
When the International Parking and Mobility Institute was looking to launch a podcast, the group realized doing it well would require a large time commitment. A clever partnership is providing the advantages of a podcast without monopolizing staff hours.
Podcasting has become a popular medium for associations to communicate with members and the public. However, creating a quality one can be a time-consuming task, which the International Parking and Mobility Institute realized when it began exploring the idea last year.
“By the time you identify the guest, come up with questions, edit it, upload it, it’s a fairly large investment in time to do the kind of podcast we wanted to do,” said Kim Fernandez, IPMI’s director of publications. “We were going to have to stop doing something else. When we looked at what we were willing to stop doing, the answer was, there wasn’t anything.”
The timing of when IPMI was exploring a podcast was fortuitous, because several new industry podcasts had popped up. One of those programs was hosted by a highly involved IPMI member, and that’s when the group had an epiphany.
“He was our professional of the year last year, and he was on our list as a potential host because he has very good judgment and a very good sense of the industry,” Fernandez said. “We asked if he would be willing to do a mutually beneficial partnership.”
“The way it works is we put a link on our website, we publicize all the episodes, we include them in our newsletter, and we advertise the podcast in our print publications,” Fernandez said. “Our logo is on the podcast, but we don’t produce it.”
Mouw selects the guests, conducts interviews, and edits and produces the podcasts, which airs every two weeks. IPMI gets to promote its programs and member benefits each episode.
“Each show, we have a 30 second pre-roll and a 15 second post-roll that we can change every episode,” Fernandez said. “We use it to publicize our conference, sometimes with a call to action or to say early-bird pricing is ending. We might talk about our keynote speaker or one of our add-on sessions. We have publicized our books.”
The podcast is also low cost. Fernandez estimates IPMI has only spent “a few hundred dollars” for extra headsets and microphones. Previously, the podcast only had one microphone it would ship to guests, which created lag time in episodes as the single microphone got sent to them and back. The extra equipment helps the podcasts stay on schedule.
Advice for Other Associations
For associations considering partnering with an existing podcast, Fernandez has a couple pieces of advice. First, put it in writing. “Ink out your agreement, even if you’re super friendly,” Fernandez said. “Make sure there are clear expectations of what the goals are. What do you hope to get out of it for each of you?”
Second, understand the impact of guest selection. While IPMI does not have guest approval, it does receive advance notice. “There is certainly a fine line to walk when it comes to interviews with supplier members of ours,” Fernandez said. “We want to avoid any favoritism. We very much value all of our supplier members.”
While no supplier members have been guests, Fernandez said IPMI would pull back on publicity for a supplier member episode to avoid the appearance of favoritism. She recommends thinking through issues that could be created by certain guests.
The third piece of advice is, if you choose to go with a member who already has a podcast, find out if there are other member podcasts out there and be upfront. “That can be tricky,” Fernandez said. “There were other podcasts out there, some by our members. We did reach out to the others and say, ‘Here is why we are doing it this way. There are no hard feelings.’”
The one-year strategic partnership agreement between Mouw and IPMI was signed last fall, and Fernandez said everyone is pleased so far.
“He is getting publicity and really able to grow the podcast,” Fernandez said. “From our end, we essentially have a podcast, and it’s not taking a lot of staff time. It’s been a win-win.”
How has your association found creative ways to get into podcasting? Share your thoughts in the comments.
As fears about the spread of the virus rise, associations are determining how they will cope if a severe outbreak hits the U.S. Business continuity plans cover many emergencies—including infectious disease—so make sure yours is up to date.
If you ever wondered why you should develop a business continuity plan, coronavirus has supplied an answer.
With the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) making news daily and fears growing that the deadly virus could spread widely in the U.S., it’s important for associations to have business continuity plans in place, experts say.
Bob Mellinger, CBCV, founder and CEO of Attainium, a company that helps organizations with business continuity planning, said preparing for coronavirus is just like preparing for any other infectious disease. “I would like to see people not get caught up in the hype,” he said. “It’s an infectious disease, just like the flu or any other.” If your association already has plans in place for responding to a flu epidemic, that’s a good place to start when planning for COVID-19.
When planning for maintaining operations at your association, key areas to focus on include policies and procedures, monitoring, and continuity practices.
Policies and Procedures
Organizations need to have policies outlined ahead of time if they want to keep operating during an emergency. To come up with those policies, consult with managers in various business units about their concerns. “The key is to ask the questions,” Mellinger said. “If the curtailing of travel comes up, and you’ve not already asked the question, you could be in some serious trouble.”
One issue with infectious disease is what to do about travel to affected regions and how to treat staff who have exposure risks, said Amber Clayton, SHRM-SCP, director of the Society for Human Resource Management’s Knowledge Center.
“If someone did come back from an area where there was an outbreak, how should they report that to the employer? Then, the employer has to have some guidance for what they do,” Clayton said. “Are [those employees] required to stay home? What if they were exposed to someone who had the coronavirus? You have to have policies in place.”
Explain office policies and procedures to staff and communicate updates regularly. Ensure that staff understand how employees who are sick at work will be handled. “It needs to be thought out, so there are no surprises,” Mellinger said.
With any infectious disease outbreak, the situation can change quickly. Name a staff point person who will follow and report updates from health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also monitor what is going on at your office. Identify key data points you need to watch, both internally and externally, so you can act when needed.
“Set some triggers—things that would require you to dig deeper and maybe act,” Mellinger said. “At what level do you go, ‘Hey, we have way too many people out sick’? If you normally have 2 percent out, and you go up to 20 percent, I’d say that’s a trigger. Is 15 percent a trigger? It depends on the association. If it’s an out-of-town event, what would have to be going on in that city to make you close that event?”
In planning for the worst, associations need to identify their most important business functions. “You have to start looking at what business functions you can curtail,” Mellinger said. “Are there lower-priority things you can’t do that would allow you to do the high-priority things you need to do?”
When making those decisions, look at home and away. “From an association’s standpoint, you have normal operations that go on at headquarters, and you have meetings and events externally,” Mellinger said.
Teleworking is a business continuity solution, but it doesn’t work for every position, and it may be difficult to execute if your office doesn’t regularly allow it. If you’re considering expanding telework options, Clayton suggests asking a few questions: “Does the person have the resources? Can we communicate with the individual? Do they have everything they need to perform their jobs?”
Cross-training can also help keep operations running, she said, and it’s important to have alternate actors in your plans, in case the person charged with performing certain tasks is sick or otherwise unavailable.
Regardless of what happens with COVID-19, every association should have an up-to-date continuity plan that’s flexible enough to address a range of situations. “You have things like evacuation or shelter in place for other emergencies,” he said. “This is just one more of those things for association continuity of operations.”
Find new ways to reach potential members. Also: Establish an association culture that promotes community and collaboration.
Membership growth is a priority for most associations. And while attracting new members is challenging, there are several ways you can up your recruitment game, writes Callie Walker of MemberClicks.
It helps to optimize your presence on social media. Your feeds should be active and include a description of your organization, contact information, and important links.
“Think of a prospect winding up on your Facebook page before ever visiting your organization’s website. Are you presenting your organization the way you’d like to? Can they access all the information they might need (particularly to join) right then and there?” Walker writes.
Your existing members can also help in your recruitment efforts. “You know who knows other people in your organization’s industry the best? Your members!” Walker says. “They work with them day in and day out; they’re friends with them.” Create a membership referral program that gives current members an incentive to bring in new people.
If you’re having trouble reaching potential members directly, try contacting the companies they work for. “Companies want the best of the best, particularly in today’s competitive workforce. They want their employees to have the sharpest skills and to stay on top of the latest trends and best practices—something your association and chamber can certainly help with,” Walker says.
In the world of work, some employees unfortunately face injustices, such as harassment, discrimination, and inhumane policies. However, associations can be bastions of kindness in a competitive world, argues Amanda Kaiser of Smooth the Path.
Association professionals “want to build a community and foster collaboration. We sometimes dare to hope our membership becomes a professional family,” Kaiser says. To achieve a positive culture, make sure your association’s policies are in place, up to date, and enforced, she advises. And as a leader of the organization, take every opportunity to set an example of kindness, openness, and generosity.
Other Links of Note
So you’ve decided to create a newsletter for your nonprofit. Content marketing specialist Rob Browne offers tips on the Wild Apricot Blog on how to make it successful.
Working with consultants? JP Moery of The Moery Company explains how to build strong relationships between associations and consultants.
If you’re developing a data security program for your organization, check out a recent post on CMSWire detailing the first steps you should take.
As concern about the coronavirus grows, the World Health Organization recently released a report with recommendations about keeping attendees safe at large events.
Attendee health and safety are always top of mind for meeting professionals. However, with people worldwide growing increasingly concerned about the spread and impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), many organizers are weighing whether they should still hold their conferences as planned—or if cancellation or postponement is the better option.
Many factors go into making that decision, but for organizations that decide to hold their event as planned, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a helpful resource on February 14.
The more general recommendations include, for example, establishing contact with local and national public health authorities and providing attendees with information on proper hand hygiene and coughing etiquette and how to access local healthcare if they need it.
In context of coronavirus specifically, the report has several recommendations. Among them: that planners consider crowd density and venue layout; the number of participants coming from countries or areas affected by the COVID-19 outbreak within 14 days of their event; and the age of attendees, since the elderly seem to be more affected.
In addition, the document outlines what to do if meeting attendees exhibit symptoms consistent with the virus during the event. “Organizers need to consider where any participant who becomes unwell with COVID-19 symptoms will be treated and how they will be transported to [a] treatment facility,” WHO advises. The report also suggests that organizers may need to provide isolation facilities at the venue for participants who develop symptoms and must wait for a health assessment.
Planners also need to consider the longer-term impacts if an attendee falls ill. “Participants at events sometimes expect they will be returned to their home country for medical treatment rather than be treated in the host country, which isn’t possible for anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 illness,” WHO says.
Several associations with conferences coming up in the next few months have already taken some of these precautions to ensure a safe and productive onsite experience for attendees. Last week, the National Association of Broadcasters affirmed that its April 2020 NAB Show will take place in Las Vegas as planned and announced it will devote additional resources to coronavirus concerns.
“While the NAB stands firm in its commitment to hold the convention as planned, the health and safety of attendees and participants are NAB’s top priority,” the organization said in a press release. “To that end, NAB is dedicated to providing rapid responses and assistance in support of the global NAB Show community’s participation plans.”
NAB’s event management team launched a resource page for attendees and announced that it is following all guidance and safety measures issued by WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; making sure that medical care is readily accessible to address immediate health concerns; and working with the convention center, airport, and hotels to coordinate appropriate safety procedures.
The International Communication Association is taking similar measures for its annual conference, which is scheduled to take place in May in Australia. “ICA is not in a position to make medical decisions in a vacuum, and our policy will be guided by the practical necessity of what is allowed by the Australian government which is, in turn, advised by the World Health Organization as the situation evolves,” ICA said in a press release.
What additional precautions has your association taken related to participant health and safety due to coronavirus? Please share in the comments.
The factors that lead to a successful presentation. Also: a look at the most recent changes in the social media landscape.
At professional conferences, speakers are responsible for delivering informative and entertaining presentations. As a result, they often make or break an event.
“When retaining speakers to present at their conference or convention, meeting planners must tread very carefully,” says professional speaker Jeff Davidson on the Plan Your Meetings blog. “Picking the wrong speaker for an event can have disastrous consequences.”
What are meeting planners looking for in the right speaker? For starters, a veteran who has presented to dozens, or even hundreds, of groups—someone who knows how to present with impact, Davidson says. Beyond that, someone who can tailor a presentation for a specific audience.
In addition, planners want speakers who can engage with that audience by asking questions, posing dilemmas, and encouraging participation. “Interaction can be a notable, even memorable factor for audience members, who have sat in front of one staid delivery after another,” Davidson says.
An effective speaker is also succinct, Davidson argues. Event speakers should be able to stay on time and on topic, even when plans change.
“The seasoned speaker, on the fly, knows how to convert what was scheduled to be a 45-minute presentation into what now has to be a 32-minute presentation, and has the ability to do so without the audience knowing the difference,” Davidson says.
By now, it’s a safe bet that your organization has a social media strategy. But is it the right one? A new report from the audience intelligence platform Shareablee highlights how social media users are changing the way they’re engaging with U.S. brands, Forbes reports.
According to Forbes’ summary of the report, while the total amount of engagement went up overall, Facebook made up a smaller share of total engagement between 2018 and 2019, falling 3 percent—while the Facebook-owned Instagram rose by 3 percent. (Instagram makes up the lion’s share of engagement, with 70 percent of total likes, shares, and comments in 2019.) Not only has performance changed across platforms, but it’s also changed across content type: Video engagement across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram grew 8 percent, from 23.9 billion actions in 2018 to 25.9 billion in 2019.
V R Ferose, senior vice president and head of SAP Engineering Academy, suggested that conference organizers “curate the audience and not just the speakers.”
“Make it a little difficult for people to attend the conference. Make it aspirational. This is one way to create demand,” he wrote. “Have a simple questionnaire; ask why people want to attend the conference in the first place. The response would indicate how serious the participant is.”
He offered the example of The Human Gathering, a three-day conference that brings together the top minds in business, technology, philanthropy, and the arts. People who are interested in attending the 150-person event are required to apply, and according to The Human Gathering’s website, attendees are selected with the goal of having a completely immersive experience where people get to “know each other and participate in various activities that spur a deep human connection.”
From my experience attending conferences and writing about them, it does often feel like more time is spent on recruiting the right speakers and even session topics than on curating or considering the attendee list. For example, it’s likely your association is working to ensure that its speakers come from different demographics and backgrounds and that the same people aren’t being selected year after year. But is that same emphasis put on your attendees?
And focusing on audience curation doesn’t necessarily only mean selecting people based on an application process, which could become burdensome or even inadvertently leave people out.
One initial step to take is to review your attendee demographics from your previous year’s meeting and determine where there are gaps. For instance, are the bulk of your attendees men, even though women make up the majority of your industry? Understand what is keeping women away and consider what you can do to make it easier for them to attend.
However, if you are going to go the application route, your large annual conference probably isn’t the right event for that approach. Instead, follow the example of The Human Gathering and start small. That will be more manageable, and you can scale up if you find it successful.
Even if you’re not going to actively take steps to curate your audience, I could see some value in requiring people to answer this question during the registration process: Why do you want to attend?
With those answers in hand, you may be able to send personalized schedules to attendees based on their responses. Or if you have a lot of attendees responding with “I want to increase my data analytics skills,” but you have few sessions scheduled on that topic, you may be able to add them and meet a previously unknown attendee need.
What strategies has your association used to curate the audience at your conferences or other events? Tell us about it in the comments.
Numerous events big and small have had to change their schedules or even cancel in response to lingering concerns about the Wuhan coronavirus. The disease led to the recent cancellation of Mobile World Congress, among others.
While the decision to cancel Mobile World Congress for reasons related to the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, dominated industry headlines last week, that massive global event isn’t the only one affected by the spread of the disease.
Far from it. Events, including many run by associations, have faced major disruptions, delays, and even cancellations. And some of those affected aren’t even taking place in Asia—showing how concerns about the disease stretch beyond Chinese borders.
Here are just a few such events that have been affected:
Inspired Home Show. While the International Housewares Association plans to continue the event, taking place in Chicago next month, IHA canceled the International Sourcing Expo, a part of the tradeshow that was to include dishes, flatware, and other household products made by 500 Chinese companies, according to the Chicago Tribune. “They are factories that are sponsored by the Chinese government … with those Chinese factories, the challenge is that they can’t get here,” said Leana Salamah, the association’s vice president of marketing, in comments to the newspaper.
ILEA Operations Summit. The International Exhibition Logistics Association’s event, which was to be held in Bangkok last week, was postponed until September 2020, according to a note on its website.
Facebook Global Marketing Summit. While not an association event, Facebook’s March marketing event is high-profile, drawing more than 5,000 people to San Francisco’s Moscone Center each year. In a statement to Recode, Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison said the decision to cancel was made out of caution over “evolving public health risks.”
Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition. This event, run by the National Business Aviation Association, was supposed to take place April 21-23 in Shanghai, but NBAA canceled the event, saying that the uncertainty caused by the disease had made it hard to finalize important decisions. “While the Chinese government is taking commendable steps to address the coronavirus outbreak, the current situation has presented a very challenging environment for decision making and action for ABACE participants to fully prepare for the event,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “This necessary step is being taken in the spirit of partnership, collaboration, and transparency.”
Tokyo Marathon. The Japanese race, taking place March 1, is being limited to just elite runners, notes Outside magazine. While the event is more than 1,500 miles away from the Wuhan region, the limiting of the race participants highlights the nature of the risk that organizers see for the public. Concerns about health risks are also leading another major race managed by an association, the Boston Marathon, to consider its options.
International Congress on Infectious Diseases. This annual event, which was to take place in Malaysia this week, has been delayed until September—but unlike some other events, it’s largely because of the need for the services of members of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. In a statement, ISID President Marc Mendelson noted many of its planned attendees are needed on the home front. “The prevention of further spread and the effective containment of COVID-19 is our top priority,” Mendelson said in the statement. “The people who attend the ICID are critical to the national, regional, and international response to the epidemic and are needed at home in order to engage with and protect their own communities.”